“I have to go after him Father,” Mero said, as he paced the worn floor of their
den. It had been two days since Stranger had left under the shadow of Leer’s
accusations, and Mero had fully expected him to have realised his mistake and
returned by now.
Carrow, on the other hand, knew better. He had seen the conviction in his
adopted son’s eyes. He shook his head. “I want him back as much as you do Mero,
but he has to make his own decisions now. We can only hope...”
Mero sighed and stormed out of the cave with his sister Rasca running after
him. “Mero, where are you going?” she asked.
Mero spun around to face her. “Dad says Stranger has to make his own decisions.
Well, so do I, and I’ve decided to go after him. He’s my brother Rasca-- I have
to go. If I can’t bring him back, I at least need to make sure he’s okay.”
Rasca nodded. “I know.” And she watched as Mero turned back and headed West
through the woods. She didn’t notice the two small eyes that were viewing this
scene from the shelter of a bush. It was Leer’s youngest son and Flep’s younger
brother, Jexel who was still little more than a cub. He was old enough though,
to want the approval of his father and older brother, and as he watched Mero
disappear amongst the trees, he believed he knew just how to achieve it. As
Rasca sighed and walked back into the cave where the rest of her family waited,
he emerged from his hiding place and picked up Mero’s trail, running as fast
as his short legs would carry him to catch up with his quarry.
Stranger had traveled relentlessly for two days, stopping only in the early
hours of the morning to rest in the open night air before continuing his journey
as the first rays of the sun peeled his eyes open at dawn. As he crossed a river
by way of a fallen log, he realised that he was in a part of the forest now
that he had never seen before. He slowed and made his way more carefully, surrounded
by strange sounds and smells. He could see that the trees thinned up ahead,
as though the forest was about to open up into a clearing.
As he emerged from the cover of the trees, Stranger’s beak fell open in awe.
It was more than just a clearing--there was more open space here than he had
ever seen. A deep valley bordered by towering cliffs gaped before him. On the
cliffside nearest to him and off to his right, he could make out several caves
etched into the sheer rock. As he looked at these, he noticed multicoloured
shapes darting through the air. They moved like birds, but they were bigger
than any birds he had ever seen. He squinted against the sunlight, trying to
see them more clearly, and suddenly he gasped as he realised what they were.
“Hey you!” a voice interrupted him, and Stranger turned only to be more amazed
by the two creatures who faced him. He was instantly reminded of his reflection
in the walls of the ice cave. He had never seen another Eyrie before. “I don’t
know you,” the big red one who had called out before said, staring at him critically,
while the yellow Eyrie who was with him walked around Stranger, examining and
sniffing at him. “Where did you come from?”
“E-east of here,” Stranger struggled to find his voice through his shock.
“He stinks of Lupe,” the yellow Eyrie growled to his friend.
The red Eyrie glared at Stranger. “Why’s that? Who are you?”
Disregarding the first question, he answered, “My name’s Stranger.”
“Huh, what kind of stupid name is that? And what have you been doin’ with
“Hey!” a new voice rang out like a bell. A slender green Eyrie leapt down from
a treetop to land between Stranger and the other two Eyries. “Leave him alone.”
The other Eyries backed up a few steps, dipping their heads. “We were only
doing our jobs Princess,” the red one defended. “We’re to keep intruders away
from our territory.”
The green Eyrie turned her head to look at Stranger and then turned back to
the other two. “He’s no intruder--he’s an Eyrie just like you and I. I approve
him, so you needn’t worry about it any more. Go back to your work.” They nodded
and quickly headed off.
“Th-thank you,” Stranger stuttered as the green Eyrie began walking in the
opposite direction, beckoning for him to follow.
“You’re welcome,” she said, smiling warmly at him. “My name is Dantia, by the
way.” She stopped and sniffed as the yellow Eyrie had and Stranger cringed.
“Why *do* you smell like a Lupe?”
Stranger paused for a moment, looking at her and wondering what he ought to
say. But as she looked back at him, he suddenly felt that he could trust her
and found himself telling her the entire story, from his adoption by Carrow
and Rasca to the disastrous hunt and his exodus from the pack’s territory. Dantia
listened attentively and nodded sympathetically as his story ended, and Stranger
felt great relief that she had not decided to reject him outright upon hearing
“Well,” she said, “You can be a part of our tribe now, be an Eyrie like you’re
supposed to be. You can even stay with me and my father in our cave.” Stranger
nodded happily at her acceptance of him. “All right, we should go there now,”
she said, and suddenly she went into a run and went straight over the side of
the cliff on which they stood.
Stranger ran after her in shock, stopped at the edge and yelling down to where
she had fallen, “Dantia!” Suddenly, a form darted up from the mist below, and
Dantia’s face was in front of his own as she flapped her wings easily, holding
herself in the air. Stranger sighed with relief, “I thought--”
“Come on Stranger,” she interrupted, “What are you waiting for? My father’s
cave is over there.” She pointed to the cliff across the wide gorge.
It took Stranger a moment to figure out just exactly what she wanted him to
do and then he shook his head vehemently. “N-no, I can’t fly!”
“You can’t fly?” For a moment Stranger was afraid that she would laugh at him,
but instead Dantia landed beside him back on solid ground. “Well, I’ll just
have to teach you. Come on, you’ll love it.” Dantia led Stranger back several
yards from the edge of the cliff. “All right, it’s easy. You just have to get
started, and then you’ll get the hang of it.” She showed Stranger how to flap
his wings properly and then before he knew it they were running side by side
toward the cliff edge.
Even as he ran, Stranger was frightened to death and making sure that Dantia
knew it. “I don’t think I can do this,” he yelled.
“Yes you can! Just jump when you get there and flap your wings. Okay....Jump!”
Against his better judgment, Stranger followed the direction, leaping off of
solid ground into the air. But instead of floating upward, he found himself
plummeting toward the ground, screeching in panic. Suddenly, Dantia was there,
diving down with him, although her dive was obviously controlled. “Flap Stranger!”
she shouted, “You forgot to flap your wings.” Shutting his eyes tight in terror,
Stranger did as he was told.
Something felt different, and Stranger opened his eyes to find that he was
no longer falling toward the earth below. He was balancing perfectly in midair,
and he found that by simply changing the position of his legs and flapping his
wings differently, he was soaring up through the mist behind Dantia. “Wow!”
he cried out triumphantly. “I’m flying!” He tried to do a flip in the air, wobbled
a bit, but got it perfect on the second try, as Dantia flew by his side, laughing
and applauding the efforts of her pupil. “I love being an Eyrie!” he shouted
to the world as they flew out over the forest, seeing more than he had ever
seen in his life as the sunset painted everything in pink and purple hues.
Eventually, they both became tired and hungry, and Dantia led him to a mossy
cave high on the side of the cliff. A tremendous golden Eyrie waited for them
there, and Stranger felt his nervousness of earlier return. “Stranger,” Dantia
said, “This is my father Creegan, the king of the Eyries” Stranger bowed, not
knowing if he was following proper etiquette or not. “Father,” she continued,
“This is Stranger.”
The old Eyrie smiled benevolently at Stranger, instantly placing his trust
in his daughter’s judgment. “Hello Stranger,” his voice boomed. “Welcome to
To be continued...